It all started with a goat?
There exists a legend of Kaldi, the goatherd, who lived in the Ethiopian highlands. It is believed that he was the one to discover coffee when he noticed that his goat became energetic and sleepless at night when he ate berries from a certain bush. Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery. The abbot made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer.
Soon, word spread about the “magic” berries and slowly, but surely, news of the berries had gotten around. As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula, it began a journey that would spread its reputation across the globe. Today coffee is grown in many countries around the world such as countries in Asia or Africa, Central or South America, the islands of the Caribbean or Pacific. However, all of them can trace their heritage to the trees in the forests on the Ethiopian plateau.
The Arabian Penninsula
By the fifteenth century, coffee was being grown on the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs were the first, not only to cultivate coffee, but also to begin its trade. By the fifteenth century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the sixteenth century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.
Coffee became so popular that it became a reason for social gathering. Coffee houses, known as qahveh khaneh, sprung up in cities across the Near East and became so popular that they were also seen as an important center for the exchange of information and were referred to as ‘Schools of the Wise.’
Because thousands of people made the pilgrimage to the city of Mecca each year, “the wine of Araby” spread far beyond Arabia. Because the Arabians wanted to keep their complete monopoly of the coffee trade, they closely guarded their coffee production.
What’s New York got to do with it?
In the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, which was later named New York by the British. Although coffee had gotten rapid popularity, tea was still the favored drink of the New World. However, when King George imposed a heavy tax on tea in 1773, the colonists revolted by throwing tea into rivers all over the colonies. The most famous one, the Boston Tea Party, forever changed the American drinking preference to coffee.
Coffee Consumption for the Average New Yorker
New York and their Street Vendors
More than 90% of street vendors are immigrants (1) and work long hours just to earn a living. John Nassedi is a coffee vendor on 39st and Madison Ave. He answered a few questions about what it was like to be a street vendor.
How long have you been in this specific location?
I started working here ten years ago. I’ve been working here on my own the whole time.
When did you move to New York City? Where are you from?
I’m from Afghanistan…I’ve been here for twenty-nine years. Right now, I live in Teaneck, New Jersey with my wife and three kids. The oldest is studying to go to college.
Which of your products sells the most?
Bagels and coffee make the most money, definitely.
What’s an average day for you like? What are your hours?
I wake up at 2am every day, pull the truck with my van from a lot to this spot, which I lease. I work here from 4:30am until 11:30am, for the morning rush hour. Then I go somewhere else, maybe to eat lunch, until 1:30pm. Usually I go to bed by 8pm, so I can get up early the next day.
Do you enjoy what you do?
Not really—I’m tired of this business. It was a horrible winter, I almost gave up. I really push myself to enjoy the job, but it’s hard work. As I’ve said before: You cook in the summer and you are dead in the winter!
Joe’s Coffee – Not Just a Cup of Joe?
The first thing that you will see on the YouTube group of this coffee shop is this introduction:
My name is Jonathan Rubenstein, I own Joe in New York City. Joe has five locations in Manhattan and our primary focus is to treat coffee as a culinary art. The video then begins to describe how every cup of coffee is made with care and special attention so that each customer is not only satisfied by the cup of coffee, but really tastes the authenticity of the flavor and style. While watching the video, it was rather shocking to see how much attention and detail was put into each customer’s order.
The Popularity of Chains
The Big Three – Starbucks vs Dunkin Donuts (sometimes McDonald’s)
The first Starbucks store opened in 1971, in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. CEO Howard
Schultz returned from a trip to Italy in 1983, with the dream of bringing the Italian coffeehouse tradition
of conversation and community back to the United States.Today, Starbucks has more than 15,000 stores in 50 countries, and is known as the world’s premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee.
Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first McDonald’s Bar-B-Que restaurant in 1940, in
San Bernadino, CA. In 2009, McDonald’s kicked the Coffee Wars into overdrive with the introduction of
McCafe coffees, including lattes, cappuccinos and mochas. In 2010, to further promote the
coffeehouse atmosphere, McDonald’s began offering free Wi-Fi in over 11,000 restaurants in the
United States. Today, McDonalds is located in 118 countries around the world.
Bill Rosenburg opened the first Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950, in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Rosenburg’s philosophy was simple, “Make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and
donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores”. Dunkin’ Donuts has over 8,800 stores worldwide, with over 6,000 franchised restaurants in 34 United States and over 2,400 shops in 31 countries.
As you can tell from the descriptions, all three companies are doing well in popularity and sales, with thousands, if not millions, of cups of coffee sold each day. However, one cannot help, but recall Starbuck’s advantage over its other three competitors. This can be explained with a variety of reasons. However, what is the most solid piece of evidence, in my opinion, are two short words – Fast Food.
Dunkin Donuts and McDonald are seen as cheap and Americanized products. I used to love getting a caramel latte from Dunkin Donuts because it satisfied a sweet tooth craving and was inexpensive. One day, my friend saw me drinking this and asked me how I could stand the taste of the washed down beans and artificial flavoring. With the popularity of Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts is seen as something the Blue Collar workers would drink; Starbucks is off limits for them.
As you can tell from the map, Starbucks is concentrated greatly in Manhattan and around the richer neighborhoods. There are very few Starbucks openings in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. On the other hand, Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds have a greater presence in the outer boroughs and bring in many customers that way.
New Yorkers’s Coffee Preferences
The Dunkin Donut’s slogan “America Runs On Dunkin'” is especially true for New York. Whether it be from a street vendor, a chain company, or an authentic cafe in SoHo, one thing is true – New Yorkers value the quality of their coffee and it is something that keeps them running – which is important for the city that never sleeps!